Aero Club Deliberates

The attached article was published in the June 10, 1909 Indianapolis News a full five days after the start of the national championship balloon race hosted by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on June 5. What's more the final balloon to retire from the competition was the Indiana of Speedway Founder and President Carl Fisher and Captain George L. Bumbaugh on June 7. Since then Aero Club of America officials had gathered information and sought to determine the landing locations of each competitor and their distances from Indianapolis.
According to the article New York-based supporters of the balloon with the same name insisted that it was victorious. The New York was piloted by A. Holland Forbes with assistant Clifford Harmon. The opinions that really mattered, however, were based in Indianapolis and the best information indicated that the University City was expected to be declared the official winner. That announcement was expected the following day or perhaps as late as Saturday - an entire week after the event started at the Speedway. The winning balloon was piloted by John Berry who was joined in the vessel by assistant Paul McCullough. The New York was presented with a special award for the duration of their flight - the longest of all competitors at 35 hours and 10 minutes.
The duration award was provided by Carl Fisher. Fisher, Bumbaugh and their balloon the Indiana were the center of controversy as they came to the surface of the Earth to replenish their supply of water not once but twice. The rules strictly forbid landing and returning to competition. Quotes from Fisher recount these incidents including the fact that he admitted to landing on a pile of railroad ties - not the ground - and crawling out of the basket to find a safe distance from the balloon to light up a cigar his body craved. The frst stop was over Shackle Island, Tennessee and the second where Fisher grabbed a smoke was reported to be Ashland. Fisher described this in a first hand account he wrote for the Indianapolis Star in subsequent weeks.
The attached article includes a couple of interesting points. It cites a German study that discovered that balloons such as those used in this competition could be pierced by numerous bullets and still stay aloft. The fear, of course, was more centered on a bullet penetrating the basket and striking one of the occupants. All of this was relevant because of reports of country farmers especially in hills and mountains firing on the balloons with their rifles. Another interesting point is that Fisher was clearly pumped up about the event and the article closed with a reference to the Speedway's desire to stage another aviation event that could also include airplanes and dirigibles.

BalloonNews061009.pdf3.28 MB